For a university student, Prof Shamsul Islam is a household name and someone who frequently addresses college audiences, particularly on the topic of the freedom struggle. However, ugly scenes unfolded at Mangalore University on Saturday, 9th September 2023, when he was invited to deliver the BV Kakkilaya Inspired Oration for 2023.
The renowned professor, researcher, author and former Associate Professor of Political Science at Delhi University was to deliver a lecture on the topic, Joint Martyrdoms, Joint Heritage of the 1857 War of Independence at the Ravindra Kalabhavana, University College.
Organised by Hosatu Monthly, Bangalore, MS Krishnan Trust, Bengaluru, and Samadarshi Vedike, in collaboration with Dept of History, University College, the annual BV Kakkilaya Inspired Orations are a tribute to the work of BV Kakkilaya (1919-2012), who was a freedom fighter, leader of the Karnataka unification movement, member of the Communist Party of India and All India Trade Union Congress, and a member of the first Rajya Sabha and Karnataka State Assembly.
The shared heritage of the 1857 War of Independence should be remembered for uniting India, said Dr Islam at the program, highlighting that there are many unknown martyrs of the war, including 136 from the state of Karnataka.
Prof Islam argued such archival work was vital to ensure that people remember that Hindus, Muslims and other communities fought for freedom together. The protesting ABVP members, who were later barricaded by the police in a corner, said they did not want the college to be a space for ‘Left ideology”, and they continued to heckle the speaker throughout. Tight police security had to be provided and the speakers had to be safely escorted to the dais.
At the event, a Kannada translation of Shamsul’s book, The Untold Amazing Stories of 1857, was also released.
Jayaraj Amin, the current VC, refuting the claims of the ABVP, said: “Shamsul is a researcher and academic who has compiled the names of freedom fighters from Karnataka who were martyred in the 1857 revolt. He made a point that it included both Hindu and Muslim martyrs and that there was a sense of communal harmony in the revolt against the British.”
In another incident, Professor Amin has also recently claimed that he was threatened by BJP MLA Vedavyas Kamath to organize the Ganesh Chaturthi celebration at the main campus’s Mangala Auditorium. In this light, he also requested the government to relieve him of his post as in-charge Vice Chancellor, due to the immense pressure he is facing.